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An account of the EDL Birmingham demo

No Pasaran! | 07.09.2009 14:01 | Anti-racism | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

Before heading up to Birmingham I was a bit nervous because there had been no signs of any national call outs from any organisations in regards to this event, so I didn't really know what to expect. But me and some others had decided we'd go have a pop at the EDL so we went anyway.

Locals up for it
Locals up for it

We got up to Birmginham around the time the EDL were supposed to be meeting. In the Broad Street area of the city all of the pubs had a few of them in it, as well as groups of them hanging out on the streets. At this point there was no sign of any anti-fascist demonstrators. We looked around the area abit and got our bearings before deciding to walk along the route of their supposed march to see if there were any pickets or stalls from any demonstrators along the way.

Having walked the whole route through Birmingham without seeing anything we decided to walk back up to where we had started, i.e. where the EDL were meeting. We got back up just in time to see them 'marching' (swaggering in typical macho style like they'd shat themselves, by the looks of them they probably were the sorts). One of my comrades pointed out a small group of demonstrators identified as such by their SWP flags, chants and the fact there were alot of Asian demonstrators in the group so we rushed over to join them.

I don't know how familiar anyone is with the geography of Birmingham (I certainly wasn't) but the anti-fascists were positioned in a small square on the side of the route of the EDL and they were marching past. There was no police cordon or anything, the EDLw ere just walking freely through the town. As we stood there chanting and generally trying to wind them up and giving it large back (imagine the scenes of football hooligan films, everyones hands in the air and alot of 'Come on then!' etc) I realised that we (the anti-fascists) were probably out numbered about 4 to 1. I think we had 20 people at the best and the EDL had around 80, all male, almost entirely white save one black man I saw with them (a tokenistic ploy they use to deny they are racist, do not fall for it, as I'll elaborate on later). We were out numbered and there was basically nothing stopping fights so this is what happened. A few of the more tanked up and up for it EDL types went for members of our crowd and there was a bit of a melee for a while. No one really knew what was going on, especially the police who were probably the least organised force I have ever encountered.

This part of the demonstration was pretty hectic and I would certainly say its been the most dangerous moment of demosntrating I've been on save some close run ins with police batons around the G20 and Palestine demonstrations. It was literally a free for all between anti-fascists and the EDL. I had one fat EDL bloke storm into me, but he didn't really do much damage (he might have thought that, as a white male, I was one of his lot, or maybe he was more in the mood for a go at one of the Asian gents, I don't know). As always in these situations it doesn't last long and you don't really have time to think. Somehow the EDL proceeded off slightly but there was still alot of shouting, etc. Still there was only about 20 of us and 80 of them. It was quite suprising that they didn't all just rush us, they were certainly up for it and to be honest they would have overwhelmed us. I think a main rule for these demonstrations is never run away. That was certainly a rule AFA abided by, and I can honestly say no one ran away at this point which is a big credit seeing as it did look like we were about to get our heads kicked in and our crowd was amde up of all sorts of people, hardly street brawling types (although that doesn't mean people didn't get involved in a beet of street fighting later!).

The EDL re-grouped following the violent clashes further down the road. At this point they formed a homogenous bloc with a few stragglers and we were right behind them, and despite our small group I could honestly say our chants were louder than theirs. We followed them up the road (a high street in Birmingham, New Street). They went around a corner and we followed. This point was also quite dodgy, as we were still about 20-30 people at the bottom of this road on a hill whilst they were all at the top. Again they could have quite easily rushed us and we wouldn't have stood a chance but they didn't, and again full testament to everyone who stood their ground at this point (everyone) because the public were keeping well away and the police were pretty much non-existant.

Its significant to ntoe at this point that 20 of us had already succeeded in rpeventing the EDL from marching easily to their destination. We effectively forced them off the road and into a police cordon down a side street, whereas we actually occupied the main street and square, so we were in direct contact with the public. At this point a group of about 20 young Asian lads and girls came running round the corner and joined the back of our demosntration. I introduced myself to them and gave them the low down and they joined our group as we planned what to do next. It was quite easy to work as one group unlike on bigger demonstrations because there were only 30 or so of us now.

We proceeded back to the high street, and some of the EDL were on a plateu road to the right of us, looking down. We effectively occupied the square/end of the street where the first skirmishes happened at this point, as our small group moved around. Again there was alot of challenges and calls for fights. It was at this point that I noticed alot of EDl types were actually in our group of the crowd, ones who had got seperated from their main group. Contrary to the media and far right claims, those 'innocent lone white people' who were 'victims of racist attack' were nothing of the sort - usually they were EDL types who decided to give it large and were met with the appropriate response form anti-fascists of all colours, although they tended to taunt the Asian (mainly Muslim, forgive me if I use the two synonymously at any point but as far as I was ware most of the Asian young people there who joined us were Muslims from their clothes and what they said) people more than others. They got was coming to them - some of them ran to police lines and were escorted off, others fared less well

We moved back to the square which we occupied. At this point one EDL member was set upon by the crowd because he decided it would be appropriate to Sieg Heil at us. Everyone one of them who did this ended up seeking police protection from our crowd of people who challenged them to back up their hand gestures with different kinds of hand movements. None of them obliged, being escorted out by the police to chants of 'Cheerio', a persnoal favourite.

From this point in our section of the crowd was mainly involved in actions with the police, as we were kettled in as we tried to reach another group of (mainly local Asian) demonstratos further down the High Street who were engaged in clashes with the EDL. It is important to note that by this time the whole of the high street was occupied by anti-fascists, and the EDL had only managed about 100m of there march (their rally never even happened) through Brum before being forced by the police into a pub. Further down the road (behind the police cordon me and my comrades were stuck in) some members of the EDL who had escaped their pub prison were attempting to rush the Asian youth in the high street, and we were eager to go help our cormades. However reports by phone from comrades down that end of the road told me that the Asian youths and other assorted demonstrators actually managed to chase the EDL members back into the police guarded pub.

The next few hours were mainly used for discussion and waiting behind police lines. There were some itneresting moments though. Someone outed a BNP councillor watching the protest. He was a typical Tory-fascist type - in a tweed suit, old grey hair and a bushy moustache. It was almost funny to see such a stereotype, you know, a Monday Club, Empire Loyalist sort of fascist who somehow got into politics in the area. He was an odd looking figure, trying to look calm and disinterested as we protested. When he was outed a crowd formed around him and challenged him. In some sort of pathetic attempt at appearing 'dignified' he just stood there, until a fantastically aimed egg managed to hit him full on in the face in what is quickly becoming something of an anti-fascist tradition, to chants of 'how do you like your eggs in the morning...' et al (I'll leave the egg puns to the readers as we pretty much exhausted them all). He quickly left after this.

Another interesting point was when the police offered to let members of the crowd go - as long as they were white! The officer in charge actually said that he would let 'elderly white' people out fo the cordon in small groups as long as the 'Asian youth' remained! Of course we totally rejected this offer. There were attempts to break out of the cordon that resulted in some comrades being attacked by officers, who amongstother things, referred to them as 'cunts' and punched them whilst they couldn't fight back. An violent and institutionally racist police force? Who would have thought it!

Following this moment nothing of much interest happened in our cordon untilwe were let g. Even the skirmishing further down the street had ended as the EDL were securely hiding behind police lines (much needed) in a pub. We eventually were let out in four multi-racial groups (i.e. we demanded we only be let out if everyone of all ages and colours could get out together, and the police conceeded). Alot of comrades were eager to escape as we heard enws of the EDL targetting lone Asians on buses and streets in the city and many of the young people especially were eager to go help their friends. Walking back from the demonstration we saw large gangs of local youth walking around looking for any action, and we witnessed one drunken EDL thug come out much the worse in a fight. It was cute to see how willing his band of hard nut mates were too jump to his aid against the 'Moslem hordes'. Bravery all around from the guardians of the Fatherland (if shouting abuse from a safe distance qualifies as bravery!)

There was skirmishes into the evening especially following the England match I heard and I believe a large bulk of the arrests were made in the evening. Although this isn't confirmed I heard that by about 6pm there were 20 arrests and by the end of the day there were 90.

I was pleased that we had what was certainly one of the clearest victories I have had the pleasure to experience on any kind fo demonstration. We completely stopped the fascist's demonstration and had humiliated them once again, in another act of definance, community unity and anti-fascist resilience against this gang of thugs and fascists.

I have some issues with the demonstration that I am not sure I would like discussed just yet in the open that I will bringing back to anti-fascist comrades in a personal capacity when I report on the events to them. Primarily I think there are lessons to be learnt from this demonstration and that it gave a very clear education in what anti-fascist action means - i.e. that it is impossible to get involved without being ready and willing to defend yourself and others and get involved in physical conflict. This is quite ismply true of the EDL. We were involved in physical combat and to engage in this you need to be ready. By this I of course don't mean only confident fighters can be involved in anti-fascism, but I do mean be careful, be alert, be ready and be with friends. As I said at the start we were totally out numbered (but certainly not out classed, anti-fascists always are the braver of the two sides), and if it wasn't for alot of personal bravery and determination from such a small group of people we wouldn't have had the time to collect more support from the local area in the form of local residents and alot of Asian youths. The EDL like all fascists are not infallible, they are not, contrary to what they claim, ubermensch, or all hardened fighters. They were cowards but in groups they will get physically aggressive and we do need to be ready for this whenever we fight fascism. This was just the continuation of a long line of fascist violence that some people choose to either exagerate or playdown. Both of these are as dangerous as the others.

I hope that my reports to comrades in the anti-fascist and radical left (for me especially the anarchist movement) at large will give rise to debates and action regarding this group and discussion on the things I don't wish to discuss over the internet will arise naturally, but after its been talked about with the right people I hope to engage more broadly on the nature of our opposition to this group and fascism in the UK generally, especially the physical side which is what I think is just as important as the political.

In conclusion though despite early fears this was an obvious victory for anti-fascists, the local community and all those opposed across the nation to the existence, rhetoric and actions of the English Defence League, rest assured the EDL have nothing but bitter memories of humiliation about their outings in Birmingham.

No Pasaran!
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Hide the following 6 comments

EDL not coming back either

07.09.2009 15:57

From their press release:

"...we will not be coming back to Birmingham in the near future..."

I would highlight the entire sentence but its extreme islamophobia.


Well done!

07.09.2009 18:23

Thanks for an excellent report and well done to all those who opposed the EDL in Brum.

Leeds Antifascist

bnp councillor?

07.09.2009 20:31

Any pics? Brum doesn't have any BNP councillors - Chelmsley Wood in Solihull has one but he doesn't fit the description.

true brummie leg-end

Good Demo, Great Article

09.09.2009 18:16

Thanks for going to the trouble of sitting down to write (having got off your arse to demonstrate in the first place of course) - it sure lifts the standard of Indymedia.

Armchair Pundit

SWPie style prose

10.09.2009 16:18

"it sure lifts the standard of Indymedia."

'Talk rubbish friend…….

No serious attempt to define where the locations of actions/situations occurred
The author could at least familiarized themselves with the geography of Birmingham via Google before letting their SWPie style prose run away with their fertile imagination

The dumb sloppy lazy phrase "local youth" Is something that is used often by leftlibbers who are either too idle or petrified to talk to these "local youth" or more probably unwilling to step out of the comfort zone of white concerned lollipop wavers (yes all right the ANL lollipop is a museum piece but still in circulation) I am sick of its usage.

In this 'report' it is being used as an extension to ally the writer and their befuddled political reasoning to the "Asian youth in the high street" who's Anti Fascist political allegiance and credentials are accepted as an immutable fact, because er...they were there for the ruck, clearly accepted, as explained by the continuance " we were eager to go help our comrades"

I ask local to where exactly? Small Heath, Alum Rock, Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, It was the city center for fuck sake! Local is Deritend, Highgate, Ladywood, Aston Edgbaston. I know none of my Sparkhill neighbours went to the protest having decided it was a meeting of rowdies looking for a fight and nothing more political than that

"and if it wasn't for a lot of personal bravery and determination from such a small group of people we wouldn't have had the time to collect more support from the local area in the form of local residents and a lot of Asian youths"

This time the inference is of an alliance to white but "local (white) residents" Birmingham must have the only 'local' city centre in the UK

Still whilst unable to consciously and concretely analyse the given political situation as it unfolds the writer can't help doing it unconsciously

"As we stood there chanting and generally trying to wind them up and giving it large back (imagine the scenes of football hooligan films, everyone’s hands in the air and a lot of 'Come on then!' etc)"

Yes Heroic the so called AF (read SWP because that was the Demo flagship) being led through the nose by xenophobic and racist yobbos, who have a deliberate policy to turn up in large numbers to provoke a violent response. Their relationship is with football hooliganism and drinking I doubt many would bust a gut and roll up their sleeves to get stuck into BNP political organizing

This half baked eye witness account presents unfounded rumour as fact "Someone outed a BNP councillor watching the protest" Right thats Peter Osborne a Conservative Councillor, what ever you wish or choose to call him, a BNP councillor he is not!
I must have a hearing defect for I can't hear any chants or renditions of 'How do you like your eggs in the morning' in the 'Tony Iommi's plastic fingers clip link', perhaps the Dean Martin Tribute got drowned out by the "Don't Stain Our Streets (or Something) SWPie chant

Further on the report relies on hearsay to paint the ruck extending past nightfall "There was skirmishes into the evening especially following the England match I heard and I believe a large bulk of the arrests were made in the evening."

Before finally flashing their concerned credentials

"I have some issues with the demonstration that I am not sure I would like discussed just yet in the open that I will bringing back to anti-fascist comrades in a personal capacity when I report on the events to them"

That would be this particular AF manifestation’s inability to control the loose cannon 'local youth’, some of who displayed just as much yobbishness as those they were purporting to oppose, would it? Do tell….

Ironically whilst this puerile ruck was going on, not more than a hundred yards up the road the British army and Air force were in the process of dismantling a major recruitment display consisting of two large field guns, a fighter jet and a Defence fire engine which had been on show in Victoria Square for a number of weeks

"clearest victories" my backside!